If you’ve been following along with the story here or in a variety of places throughout the government and mainstream media, you know that WWE’s upcoming Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia has drawn major criticism following the disappearance and apparent murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. While nothing has been formally announced and mentions of Saudi Arabia have disappeared from WWE television, the feeling as of this publication is that WWE’s moving forward with the event.
Unsurprisingly, WWE’s two most vocal Superstars in defense of the show moving forward have been Randy Orton and JBL. In a soundbite from TMZ, Orton utilized an argument you’ve definitely seen on social media already: that not going won’t do anything, so they might as well go.
“I think we should go. I think the only way to help with change over there is to go and not to cancel the trip. [WWE’s female Superstars] performed in Abu Dhabi not too long ago, and I think we’ll be there eventually with [Saudi Arabia] and Crown Jewel. That’s the goal is to make things better everywhere and I think us not going—it doesn’t help. Going helps.”
JBL offered an extended explanation of this point of view on Fox Business’ ‘Varney & Co.’ on Tuesday — a show that also aired a segment entitled, “Why the US shouldn’t destroy its relationship with Saudi Arabia” — outright mentioning plans to run the show as scheduled.
“From what I understand, yes [Crown Jewel is going to take place in Saudi Arabia as planned]. The idea is WWE is gonna go there. Right now the official line is that they’re monitoring the situation.
My personal opinion is that they should go. I think the only way you promote change, like we did with Cuba – you isolate a country, all you do is impoverish that country. You want to promote change? WWE went to Abu Dhabi, did the first women’s match that had ever happened in the middle east, the crowd chanting in English ‘this is change’.
And for these senators to come out and bash the WWE on this? I have spent seven Christmases in Iraq and Afganistan with the WWE. I was with WWE, the first group that went down to visit the twin towers while they were still burning and bodies were pulling out. We were the first group, on 9/13 to have a mass gathering, right after 9/11. People didn’t know what was gonna happen. For these guys to hide behind their patriotism and their flag-waving to me is – to try to improve their abysmal approval ratings to me is wrong.
WWE has been at the forefront of change, and you want to change Saudi Arabia, you send something like WWE there.”
It’s interesting that neither point of view includes a mention of Khashoggi’s disappearance, and lumps that incident in with the “it’s just a different culture” argument used to explain WWE’s women Superstars not being included at the Greatest Royal Rumble. It seems like the issue is more about a horrific human rights violation than a difference in cultures, but that’s where the company line appears to be as of now.
WWE has an investor conference call scheduled for October 25.
(transcription h/t to Cageside and WrestleZone